Norwegian Star Cruise Review by ACIMC: Very civilized unlike air travel.
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Very civilized unlike air travel.
I was not looking forward to a multi day ocean voyage because I get motion sickness very easily but the stability of a nearly 1,000 ft vessel that has gyroscopic stabilizers helps a lot. Fortunately we never saw more than the slighted waves (possibly 2 feet high at most) and so we marveled at what seemed to be a hotel that did all the traveling for us.
Cruising has turned out to be a much more civilized way to travel than what airline travel has degenerated into where nearly everyone is now considered guilty until suspected, but never allowed to be proven innocent as cumulative damage is done by repeated x-rays without any probable cause at all.
Figuring how the shower head works was difficult because unlike everywhere else where the cold faucet is on the right, and hot on the left; this shower head has the right knob control the mix of hot and cold and is labeled with numbers, the right knob controls the flow rate and is labeled with More dots.
The in room coffee machine takes unopened prepackaged pods of coffee and although it makes nearly perfect coffee it mysteriously ate the second and third pod inserted and produced only hot water, but other than that it was quick and efficient as it seems to be powered by 220V, as is the TV. One of the few 110V outlets provided had a label warning that it has a maximum capacity of 50W (5000W) which is roughly three times the capacity of residential circuits in the US, so if you are from the US and electrical ratings mean little to you don't worry because anything that works at home will be no challenge for the ships extra capable circuits.
Our cabin had a DVD player (Pioneer) hooked up to a high quality (Bang and Oulfsun) TV with well above average sound quality due to unusually large built in speakers. I always find the marriage of TV and separately attached DVD player to be tricky to operate as the two devices require two remotes and this arrangement is generally as satisfying as estranged love. The 'trick' here was to turn the TV on first then to hit the on/off button on the DVD remote, wait, then repeat until the screen says "Pioneer", then wait again as the loaded DVD 'loads', after this ornate ritual operation becomes simple.
The channel selection is sparse (not unlike most motels) but lacks a cartoon channel, and the on board DVD library isn't going to help much so if you have children please consider bringing a significant selection of DVDs' to help make in-cabin time go faster or everyone. The book library is nice enough, and has some typed in brail but like most ships the non-fiction section is pretty light.
The food fell into two general categories; mass produced buffet style, and cooked to order restaurants with the latter being somewhat superior, but most of the restaurants menus easily fit on one side of a single page menu with one memorable exception being the oriental restaurant which had a two page menu. There was a major mix up in our room service order quite possible due to language barriers over the phone (if we could have pointed to a menu it may have made all the difference because we speak extremely clear English but occasionally that isn't enough. The mix up was that the order of chocolate fondue was filled with (white) ambrosia that we were assured was chocolate fondue, when we totally rejected this assurance the story changed to "We are out of fondue" (and made our own substitution) Then when asked if anything chocolate was available as a substitute a plate of two brownies with some inappropriate spice baked into it (allspice?) was produced with a scoop of pistachio ice cream, the ice cream was fine but the brownies made everyone wonder about pot (marijuana) brownies, and that association might have been as much as a turn off as the off flavor, but regardless the brownies were barely touched. We then decided that it was horse poop that they ran out of fondue on the first night of the cruise, and a quick walk to the restaurant revealed that there was no shortage of fondue, and our concierge Patrick happened to walk by and considered what happened to us unacceptable and took care if it in seconds, he was quite attentive and capable of getting to the bottom of any question or (our solitary) problem with enviable grace and efficiency. I think no problems for anyone would be a fairly unrealistic goal given the wide range of preferences, personalities, and cultures that come together on a cruise ship. To be clear what I think should matter most isn't 'perfection' but how well problems are dealt with when encountered.
I took the 'behind the scenes' tour and found that even the people who work with heat generating tools (kitchen and laundry) have very comfortable working conditions- much better than I've seen in the USA where OSHA actually has no limitation on air temperature (For example Amazon.com warehouses do nothing more for the comfort of order fillers in summer heat other than to provide medical treatment, if they faint from summer heat, and short order cooks fair no better.) I have personally been through several dozen catering halls in the USA and found 90% of them to reek of rotting food despite passing sanitary standards. I am happy to report that all of the numerous food preparation areas could not have been any cleaner, and they even have separate rooms for each kind of meat preparation (chicken, fish, beef etc.) that makes the common land based restaurant practice of just using separate cutting boards seem half-hearted. The isolated preparation set up also allows the efficient creation of kosher meals without any compromise, or alterations to kitchen operation.
One facet of guest services that should be considered totally separately from everyone else is the shopping consultant Jason Bridge who beyond being a self professed black belt shopper also holds a large number of gemological degrees and possesses an enviable resume that would be impossible if not for the fact that he seems to have been born to do this as naturally as fish were born to swim.
The onboard jewelry shop has quite a selection of jewelry encrusted with the precious or semi precious stones that you crave, but unlike any other such store I've been in the display cases were effectively under lit for showcasing gem stones which I imagine hurts sales as people can't properly appreciate what they can't fully see. What's even worse is some showcases are periodically covered with cloth to create a feeling of exclusiveness between unveilings, and I'm not saying it doesn't work to that end but my personal assessment is doing so like playing peek a boo with adults.
Shopping consultant Jason Bridge delights in helping to develop a greater marketability for several obscure semi precious stones that aren't well known due to lower durability and much greater rarity than the much more common and well known stones such as diamonds, and his sales pitches include a good measure of puffery and a little nonsense to help make a sale (nonsense: inclusions in emeralds don't matter at all).
The 'Norwegian Star' is down to only one Norwegian worker (the rest have gone on to higher paying jobs in oil exploration) and has a staff composed of 60 nationalities with English often being the second language, which leads to difficult to understand accents and occasional miscommunications.
Cabin climate control allows the room to be as cool as the lower 60's but the HVAC system is not designed to deal with humidity as a separate issue from temperature and so just opening the door to the outdoor deck will raise the humidity from the 60's into the 70's where water condensates and drips from the HVAC nearest the deck door, and this will persist for quite a long time.
I know that I'm nitpicking but if not for that I'd have nothing bad to say! Less
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